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Thursday, September 30, 2004

The IM life of middle-schoolers

"It's almost like, to our kids, IM is an alternate reality," a friend and parent said to me recently. I think he's right, but it seems that way to parents too. alternate reality because kids behave differently when in instant-messaging mode. With fellow instant-messagers they're often more bold, freer to try different behaviors or personas than what they'd do or be in person. With people in the same room, sometimes it's as if we're not even there. When IMing, they're in another space.

This new online part of our children's social lives seems unfathomable to many of us. At least, that's what Amanda, a Net-literate school counselor (and trained social worker) in Salt Lake City, has found. "I was shocked by the shock of the parents. This kind of communication is so new to them that the boundaries are blurred.... They don't know when to put their foot down, so they don't." Last year there was "a kind of explosion" in Net-related issues at Amanda's independent middle school - "it exploded in parents' consciousness," not in kids' instant-messaging, she explained. Amanda has worked through IM issue with a lot of 11-to-13-year-olds and has some helpful ideas for parents and other educators on dealing with this aspect of kids' social lives now blurring the lines between home and school. To read more, click here.


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